Pinewood Derby
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Building your Pinewood Derby Car
Some Building and Setup Tips
  • Pick a shape that does not come to a Point vertically in the front like a canoe or rocket. The starting gate on most tracks is a 1/4" to 3/8" dowel that the front of the car will rest on. If your car has a vertical point the point will try to push the front of the car against one side of the track. As the gate drops your car is angled against one edge of the track and will start with a wobble, slowing it down. Be sure that your car has at least a 1/4" wide flat surface at the front of the car.
  • The best car designs have the longer overhang in the front. One end of the block has more wood before the axle grove. This should be the front of the car as the shorter back will not drag at the bottom of the track.
  • You can shorten the front overhang but do not shorten the wheel base.
  • You should spend at least as much time on the wheels and axles as you do on the rest of the car. The nails used for the axles have die marks on the shaft and heads. Chuck the pointed end in a drill and carefully run a file or emery paper against the nail as the drill turns at medium speed. Do not take off to much metal just clean off the marks.
    Polish the axles with fine emery and compound or jewelers rouge.
  • Wheels: Lowe’s has a wheel chock or you can use a long 3mm screw with a nut and washer through the wheel. Chuck the assembly in a drill and spin the wheel at medium speed and let the edge run against a piece of fine sandpaper. This will clean up the small imperfections left from the molding process. Be sure the wheel is tight in the assembly so it does not spin on the screw. This will leave burs on the inside of the wheel.
  • Weight: Your car should weigh just under 5 ounces. Why under you ask??? Well your scale may not match the official scale at the Pack Race and the Pack scale my not match the District scale and so on. It is easy to add a few pennies to your car the day of the race than it is to remove weight you glued into your car! Try to keep the weight towards the rear of the car. It won't make a huge difference but then every little bit helps. The theory is that the higher weight pushes the car for a longer period of time. On some tracks, the track section joints can provide a significant jolt to the car. This can make the car's front wheels jump up, maybe even enough to derail it. So be careful about your weight distribution. Do not set all the weight to the rear.
  • Ground Clearance: This is the distance from the lowest point under your car to the ground. You want as much as your car will allow. Any irregularities in the track center guide may rub the underside of your car and slow it down.
  • Tracking: The alignment of the wheels to be sure your car rolls straight. A car that bumps the lane guide more often gets slowed down more often. A "front-end alignment" may be necessary. If your unit's rules permit, move the axles closer to the end of the car body. A slot is fine for installing the wheels but ensure your cuts are absolutely square to the car body. New holes drilled into the body are good too but make sure they are also drilled at the same distance from the bottom of the car.
  • Lubricate: Official BSA Rules allow only dry graphite or silicon lubricant for the axles. We have found graphite seems to work best. A shot between the wheels and body and at the axle head before the race can never hurt. I have seen some people put a round sticker over the wheel hub to hold in the graphite. This seems to work but I have not noticed any advantage. And if the sticker touches the head of the axle it could slow you down.
  • The Number One Tip HAVE FUN


Pinewood Car Template      Pinewood Derby Pre-Race Checklist    Stephen's Pinewood Designs    PW Car Stand

Sign-up Sheet - Here is a sign up sheet to allow Siblings and Dads to have some fun too. This form will help organize non-official races either before or after the event. It also helps keep the peace and helps insure no one is left out.  Remember to include all in the fun. Inexpensive, non official cars are available at hobby stores and some home improvement stores. Pick one up for sister, little brother and even dad, building the cars together will be an experience remembered for a long time by all.

If you are not handy with wood enlist the help of a den parent or neighbor. As an avid modeler I have an entire workshop to build model aircraft. Add to this that our den had many single parents, so I invited the parents and kids over and spent a few Saturdays teaching basic woodworking techniques as I helped the scouts, siblings and parents build their cars. Then we organized a clinic 2 weeks before the race for the whole pack. This way any boy who was having trouble with their car could get some expert help and learn some basic skills. We had a weigh station to bring the cars up to the max weight, an alignment station, a wheel truing station. Then we had an old 2 lane track the boys could test their cars on. Be sure to only let them run the car once, unless there is a problem. then a second run can follow adjustments. This limits the chances of damage before raceday!

Again Have fun!